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HOME EVOLUTION 101: Next GENeration


The rule for neighborhoods and their venerable houses is the same as that which guides the evolution of species – Survival of the Fittest. Houses which do not evolve to meet the changing needs of their occupants perish. Into that slow spiral of disinvestment, deterioration, and devaluation they draw adjacent houses and over time, neighborhoods.

Houses which adapt to serve their owners’ changing needs over a lifetime, or adapt to attract new homeowners and their new lifestyles, survive. By positioning themselves as adaptable they drive reinvestment, renovation and renewal of their value and their neighborhoods.

In my firm’s work for the Geneva Neighborhood Resource Center (GNRC), we have been studying a phenomenon dubbed “The Geneva House.” You know the house. There are hundreds of these homes, and not just in Geneva but in all the villages in our readership. They are nearly identical in character, age, details, dimensions and floor plans. They have two-stories, two stairs, a front porch, and a formal, compartmentalized floor plan measuring about 810 square feet on each level.

These houses are at risk if they do not evolve. Because of a perceived inflexibility to accommodate multi-generational needs, accessibility, or to adapt to the more open, informal mode of living often sought today, they are undervalued. Many owners of these old houses seem resigned to the burden of a $4000 annual utility bill that will only rise over time .

Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way.

To combat these misperceptions and help owners and prospective buyers recognize the opportunities these houses afford, the GNRC asked us to prepare “case studies” showing many ways in which the resilient “Geneva House” could be adapted to fit the bill.

The first installment of this series ran last year and dealt with some simple ways to reconfigure the house for common family needs. This is the second installment on these pages and focuses on how the “Geneva House” can change and grow into another century of service. Called “Next GENeration.” Take a look.

The sketches show how an owner might create a small outbuilding allowing them to work from home or accommodate guests. Several options show how unneeded bedrooms can be repurposed as sunspaces. A small addition creates an eating nook off the kitchen plus a vestibule leading to a spacious deck. Meanwhile, the first floor plan shows how to add a bedroom and full bathroom on the first floor, and reconfigure the kitchen and dining spaces for accessibility, in-law living or just single-level convenience.

These illustrations are just that,  examples that indicate the flexibility inherent in these houses. They are meant to help you – owners and buyers especially – to imagine the possibilities.

Rick Hauser